Despite hiccups, Exploration Green project on track for 2021 completion

A couple snags and the weather have delayed the construction of Exploration Green, but the project is making good progress, Clear Lake City Water Authority officials said.

Originally, officials expected the project would finish in late 2021. That changed to late 2020 as of early 2019.

“The projects we’ve been able to do have been going faster than we thought,” CLCWA President John Branch said.

However, other delays have pushed the project completion date back to early to mid-2021, he said.

Exploration Green is a former golf course located between El Camino Real, Bay Area Boulevard and Space Center Boulevard that the CLCWA is turning into a detention pond. Once fully built, the pond will hold 500 million gallons of stormwater, protecting an estimated 2,000-3,000 homes from flooding. The project includes tree and wetland nurseries that will be used to fill Exploration Green with plants and wildlife as it is constructed.

Phase 1 is complete, and residents are using its trails regularly. Phase 2, which was originally estimated to be finished this spring, is about 70% complete and expected to be complete by late summer, CLCWA General Manager Jennifer Morrow said.

Phase 2 fell behind schedule when the Houston Airport System ordered work to halt in September because it was discovered the project violated city ordinance by being too close to Ellington Airport. The Airport Board of Adjustment granted the project a variance for work to resume, and the contractors had mostly caught up until recent rain again slowed construction down, Morrow and Branch said.

Contractors are in the process of tying the first two phases together so stormwater drains from Phase 2 to Phase 1. Trails will be constructed after, Morrow said.

Another snag is Phase 3 has now been split into two subphases: 3A and 3B.

The Harris County Flood Control District worried the project would cause one of its drainage ditches that goes from Hwy. 3 east to Phase 3 to back up and cause flooding outside the CLCWA’s jurisdiction. The CLCWA conducted hydrology reports and special engineering to ensure the phase would not affect other entities’ drainage, but the HCFCD required the phase be split and worked on one part at a time as a precaution, Branch said.

Phase 3A, which is south of the HCFCD drainage ditch, was set to start as of early July but has been delayed, likely to September. The CLCWA only recently acquired the work permits it requested in February and now has to rebid the project because it took longer than expected to get the permits, Branch said.

“The city of Houston is very large. It takes a long time to get permits turned around,” he said.

Phase 4 is in final design and review. Contractors will likely begin on that phase in the fall, Morrow said. The phase includes a $500,000 Texas Parks & Wildlife Department grant for hike and bike trails, and the CLCWA must wait for that money to be available before work can begin, Branch said.

Phase 3B, which is north of the ditch, will likely be done at the same time as Phase 5, which is being used to house the project’s tree and wetland nurseries. Nonprofit Trees for Houston has donated 1,000 trees to the nursery, which the authority is using to fill completed phases with greenery. Phase 1 has about 750 trees from the nursery and will have 900-950 when complete, Branch said.

The wetland nursery is growing plants that the CLCWA will place in the detention pond to help clean and improve the quality of stormwater that passes through it, Morrow said.

It will take about a year to fully plant each phase after completion because it is done entirely by volunteers, Branch said.

“We’re up to 9,000 volunteer hours now,” he said. “That is fantastic, and that’s what we really wanted is to get the community involved.”

Not all phases have been bid, but it is expected the final project will cost about $38 million, including buying property, digging, terracing and landscaping. Trails, which are being funded entirely through grants, are not included in that total, Branch said.
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.

<

MOST RECENT

COVID-19 vaccines
DATA: Texas has vaccinated about 9% of estimated Phase 1 recipients

Over 1.1 million individuals from the Phase 1 population, which is estimated to include 13.5 million individuals total, have received at least one dose.

Bob Popinski, policy director of Raise Your Hand Texas, shared the organization's top education priorities for the ongoing legislative session. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
‘What does virtual learning and remote learning look like moving forward?': Raise Your Hand Texas policy director talks legislative priorities

Bob Popinski is the director of policy for Raise Your Hand Texas, an Austin-based organization committed to improving public education. He spoke with Community Impact Newspaper in late December about the 87th legislative session, which began Jan. 12.

Houston City Hall aerial view
Houston City Council ethics committee to review speech policies

The discussion comes after Facebook posts by Council Member Greg Travis led to calls for his resignation or censure.

For the next few months, League City City Council will hold meetings at the Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center because the council chambers next door are under renovation. (Courtesy city of League City)
League City council chambers under renovation

For the next few months, League City City Council will hold meetings at the Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center because the council chambers next door are under renovation.

Bayou City Art Festival Downtown is scheduled to return in person in October. (Courtesy Katya Horner/Bayou City Art Festival)
Bayou City Art Festival scheduled for in-person return in October

The Memorial Park version of the festival will be celebrated through alternative virtual and smaller in-person events.

At a Jan. 15 emergency court hearing, officials came up with a plan to try to reduce the inmate population at the Harris County Jail that centers on hosting more bail reduction hearings. (Courtesy Brian Jackson/Adobe Stock)
With open beds dwindling, officials look for ways to reduce Harris County jail population

The inmate population at the Harris County Jail is rising, and officials are looking for ways to quickly ease the pressure as concerns grow over the ability to quarantine and restrict the spread of the coronavirus.

Bocca Italian Kitchen serves seasonal, Italian-inspired dishes, such as polenta and various pastas. (Courtesy Marco Torres)
Italian eateries open in Generation Park; Houston bike lane fines enforced and more local news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Minute Maid Park
Houston Health Department vaccine appointments fill up in 16 minutes

The department will administer 5,000 doses at Minute Maid Park on Jan. 16 and 17.

(Courtesy Himalayan Taj)
IMPACTS ROUNDUP: Himalayan Taj now open and more

Here is a roundup of business news from Clear Lake and League City.

Officials expect demand for the vaccine will be huge once it opens to the general public. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Montgomery County plans vaccine distribution; FDA warns of false negatives and more top Houston-area news

Read the most popular stories from the past week from the Houston area.

Students will have the opportunity to safely show and sell their agriculture projects through the 2021 CCISD Livestock Show and Online Sale through Jan. 20. (Courtesy Clear Creek ISD)
Clear Creek ISD students take robotics competitions, livestock exhibitions virtual amid COVID-19

Although students may not be able to physically attend competitions and exhibitions, parents and district leaders said students are rising to the occasion with the remote experiences.

Man riding bike in city
Houston’s grace period for bike lane parking fines ends

Houston residents now face a $100 fine for parking in bike lanes.